I love San Francisco because it's predictably unpredictable. For the most part it doesn't rain, but there is still enough uncertainty with the weather that you don't know what you'll get from one day to another. In 7 years of conducting our Marin Class, we've had to reschedule only 3-4 times due to weather…and we run this class once or twice every month.
This past Sunday we were treated to a great day of weather. Streaks of white clouds filtered through the bay as we met up at Baker Beach. We had several returning students who had joined us on our Night Owls class the previous evening. Everyone seemed to have gotten a nice rest, and looked ready for a fun day of exploring the Marin area of the Bay, and getting some nice images.
Our first stop was a high overlook looking over the Golden Gate Bridge. We encouraged the students to use their polarizers here to really bring out the blue in the sky, and make the most of the colors in the scene. It was also a great time to go over some of those settings that can give some people trouble. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. While many people are familiar with these functions, many need a little more education to really begin to see how they all relate. While we discuss these terms in detail it's also nice to look over a histogram and learn what those are and why they are important.
Our second location is Fort Point a lovely old Civil War era garrison that is both historically amazing, and photographically stunning as well. We break into two smaller groups and work with them in three different spots inside the fort to show the class a few different compositional elements and lighting situations. We spend about 25 minutes in each spot and then turn the class loose for 45 minutes to explore on their own and put to use some more of those lessons and tidbits the instructors have passed on.
Eventually everyone meets on the roof for a spectacular vista of the Golden Gate Bridge, and Scott and I walk around the fort, playing “hide and see” looking for photographers capturing their creative ideas and offer our help to see how they are putting into practice what we've covered thus far.
Once our time in the Fort has passed, many feel like they could have spent several hours inside exploring, and we couldn't agree more…it's such a fascinating place! We move our group to Sausalito to grab a bite to eat, and recharge for the final half of the night.
Rodeo Beach is great because it looks like it could be any stretch of rugged coastline in the west, but it is just minutes from the bustle of downtown San Francisco. We walk the sand to a spot where the sea stacks sit just off shore and the waves roll in gently, and give us a great opportunity to photograph a nice subject with some of that moving water people love to photograph. We arrived and the sky was looking quite promising. There were wispy clouds throughout the scene, and some breaks along the horizon to encourage us that we might be in for a really stunning display.
Sure enough the sky came through and we got one of the best sunsets I've seen from this spot in over 80 different visits over the past 5 years. Scott and I worked with the group a lot prior to the light show to let them know how to settle in with the settings in terms of aperture and how to adjust the shutter as the light faded, we loaned out graduated neutral density filters to allow everyone to really get nicely balanced exposures, and save them some time from bracketing and having to do more post processing.
The sky exploded and everyone got a few tremendous images from the experience, and it was so nice to finish the class with this kind of light…only we don't end it here. We make one final stop along the highway back to the city and shoot the Golden Gate Bridge one last time as she sheds the glow of the days light, and Illuminates with the fluorescent glow of night. Our friends from the night before already had a good dose of night photography and jumped right in where they'd left off. We helped everyone though, and made sure they got the best settings for their current camera setup. Those without remotes or cable releases needed to raise their ISO some and shoot at a slightly wider aperture to make due with their 30-second maximum exposure limit.
When all ended everyone got some nice bridge shots, a few lingering clouds over the city really gave a little extra pop to the images in addition to the already stunning scene of the bridge and the city.
Shots like that excite the group, and I think it's hard for everyone to want to stop shooting…”Where are we going next?!!!” We hear that a lot. It's sad to have to put the camera away after long day of amazing shooting…but alas we had to return everyone to their cars so they could return home and get some rest, and of course process all their pictures!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Scott, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team.
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments here.